The federal government offers several programs to assist members of the U.S. Armed Services and veterans to pursue higher-education opportunities at little to no personal cost. Most of the assistance is offered under the aegis of a statute known as the GI Bill®. The bill was originally drafted in 1944 and was designed to provide World War II veterans with financial assistance for college and for vocational education programs.

The bill also provided returning WW II veterans with loans to purchase homes or set up businesses. The original GI Bill underwent a major revamp in 1984 and started being called the Montgomery GI Bill after that. In 2008, a new GI Bill, also known as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, was introduced specifically for those who have served, or are serving in the U.S. Armed Services after Sept. 11, 2001. Over the years, the GI bill has been modified and broadened in various ways and today provides benefits not just for World War II veterans but for veterans of subsequent wars as well.

Benefits of the GI Bill®

In essence, all the different GI bills essentially provide men and women of the U.S. armed forces with financial assistance for attending an undergraduate program of their choice at any eligible university around the country. Under the various GI Bills, financial assistance is also available for those attending four-year universities, community colleges and graduate programs. In addition, some of the GI Bills provide assistance for training at diploma vocational schools such as those offering HVAC certification, EMT certification and truck driving courses. The benefits even extend to those wishing to take up flight training, and to those signing up for independent online and other distance-learning courses.

The Post 9/11 GI Bill®

The amount of assistance available under the various GI Bill programs varies and depends on factors such the number of years in active service, the kind of educational program that is being pursued and the number of classes the applicant has enrolled in. The Post 9/11 GI Bill for instance, provides for upfront tuition payments directly to the school. In addition it also provides a monthly housing allowance, living allowance and a stipend of up to $1,000 a year for book purchases. Those who have served over 36 months of cumulative service are eligible for 100% of the highest undergraduate tuition at an in-state public university. Those with at least 90 cumulative days get 40% benefits under the program. In addition, the Post 9/11 GI Bill contains a provision known as the Yellow Ribbon Program that is designed to assist those seeking to enroll in private institutions or graduate programs.

Montgomery GI Bill®

The Montgomery GI Bill meanwhile only offers a fixed amount regardless of the education program. However, the Bill offers assistance for far more educational and certification programs than the Post 9/11 GI Bill does. For instance, non-college degree and certification programs are not eligible for assistance under the new GI Bill but are covered under the Montgomery statute. Similarly, the Montgomery Bill offers assistance for on-the-job and apprentice training programs, while the Post 9/11 Bill does not. Under the Montgomery statute, the amount that is available for educational assistance is adjusted annually based on average undergraduate tuition rates for that region. Under the Montgomery GI Bill, tuition payments are sent directly to the veteran every month upon proof of enrollment in a program. Some of the GI programs also extend assistance to the spouse and dependent children of the veteran.

Choosing the right program or trade school can be a challenge for veterans because of the various nuances associated with each one. However, plenty of detailed guidance is available online for those interested in exploring the many benefits of the various GI Bills. Here are some sites with more information:

  • http://www.gibill.va.gov/gi_bill_info/programs.htm#IHL
  • http://www.gibill.va.gov/gi_bill_info/history.htm
  • http://www.todaysgibill.org/options-benefits/
  • http://www.gibill.va.gov/documents/Benefit_Comparison_Charts.pdf
  • http://www.gibill.va.gov/school_info/yellow_ribbon/index.htm

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